This Thai-Inspired chicken meatball soup is creamy, spicy, fragrant, hearty and will have you shoveling in bite after glorious bite. It is an easy weeknight dinner that is wildly nutrient-dense but also comforting and delicious.

Tan bowl with noodles, chicken meatballs and coconut curry broth

My 3.5-year-old started preschool this fall and when I tell you, none of us have been well since that very first week. Lia (3.5yo) and Penelope (1.5yo) just constantly switch off between who is sick and who is sicker. I miraculously avoided it for the first three weeks but a week ago I went down. And I’ve had this persistent, nasty cough and cold for going on two weeks UGH.

So I needed some soup to heal me.

I think we all generally think of chicken noodle soup as a sickness remedy. And I do like traditional chicken noodle soup, but what I’m really craving when sick is a broth rich in garlic, ginger, spice and flavor. Enter: Thai-inspired Chicken Meatball Soup. Fragrant coconut milk broth, ginger-scented chicken-cilantro meatballs, fresh lime, tons of chopped cilantro and basil and rice noodles. Oomph. I definitely have a new favorite for when we’re sick.

Close up view of Bowl with Thai-inspired chicken meatball soup

Why I love this recipe and think you will too:

Immune-boosting ingredients: this soup boasts lots of garlic and ginger. Garlic’s immune-boosting properties from from the heavy concentration of the compound allicin and ginger has a variety of antimicrobial properties. (source) Not to mention, this soup has a great source of protein, which is essential for recovery.

Simple and versatile: this easy Thai chicken meatball soup is made in a single pot, requires minimal chopping and doesn’t require hours of simmer time on the stove. To make this even quicker, you can purchase pre-made chicken meatballs as a short cut.

All I have to say is… Thai food: if I could use one word to describe this stellar soup it would be flavor-FULL. It really covers the gamut of different tastes- salty, sweet, tangy, umami, spicy that is so abundant in Thai Cuisine. When we visited Northern Thailand we ate so much Khao Soi (my favorite) and Tom Kha Gai (my husband’s favorite) and this recipe reminds me of both!

ingredients needed for the recipe

What you’ll need to make this Thai-inspired chicken meatball soup:

Ground chicken: lean protein, affordable and super quick to mix into meatballs!

Garlic: I recommend whole, fresh garlic cloves that you mince or grate yourself. I love using a microplane to grate the garlic fine, so it really melds and flavors the meat.

Ginger: grab a whole knob of fresh ginger and use that microplane again to get it finely grated. You could also use the small holes of a box grater. Peel it with a spoon or a vegetable peeler or do like me and don’t peel it at all.

Lemongrass paste: you can find lemongrass paste in the produce section of most grocery stores, it is usually by the refrigerated herbs near the Asian condiments and/or mushrooms.

Green onions: green onions go in the meatballs and are used as a garnish and add a lovely flavor.

Salt and pepper: I’m quite sure you probably already have these two on your kitchen counter. I like to use sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper!

Avocado oil: avocado oil is for browning the meatballs and sautéing the mushrooms. You can use any high heat cooking oil.

Curry paste: curry paste can be found in the Asian foods aisle of most grocery stores. I personally like the brand Thai Kitchen but have noticed that many stores are running low on it right now! It may be something you want to order ahead of time online.

Shiitake mushrooms: any variety of mushroom will work but I like shiitake mushrooms the best!

Brown sugar: essential in Thai cooking, a bit of sugar (it’s usually palm sugar) helps balance out all of the other flavors

Full-fat coconut milk: make sure to get canned coconut milk, not the kind in the carton! You can find this in the bottom shelf of the Asian foods aisle or at Asian stores.

Chicken broth: I’m quite partial to my own homemade chicken broth but you can use any variety of store-bought chicken or vegetable broth.

Fish sauce: fish sauce adds the final seasoning element of saltiness and umami to the soup. It is also found in the Asian foods aisle of the grocery store. I don’t think soy sauce is a suitable substitute but in a pinch, you can use it.

Lime: you can buy whole limes or 100% lime juice and don’t be shy! The brightness and acidity of lime is the perfect finishing lift of flavor. Take care to add this at the very end!

Kale: because, health duh. Use any dark leafy green you like!

Noodles: rice noodles, egg noodles, even regular spaghetti noodles would work here! Alternatively you could serve over rice or quinoa.

Chicken meatball soup with chopsticks, lime slices, basil and jalapeno

How to make this Thai-inspired chicken meatball soup:

Mix up a flavorful meatball:

In a large bowl, add the meatball ingredients: ground chicken, garlic, ginger, green onions, lemongrass paste, salt and pepper. Use your hands (I like to wear gloves) to thoroughly combine the mixture. Roll into small meatballs, I like to do 1-inch meatballs but you could make them 2-inch meatballs or larger if you like. I use my hands but you could also use a cookie scoop to make the meatballs. Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill.

ground chicken mixture with garlic, ginger and lemongrass

Brown meatballs:

In a large pot or Dutch oven add a swish of avocado oil over medium heat. Add the chicken meatballs to the hot oil in a single layer, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown all over, about 8 minutes total. You may need to work in batches. Remove meatballs to a plate.

Build the soup base:

Add another tablespoon avocado oil and sauté the shiitake mushrooms for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and softened. The mushrooms will release quite a bit of moisture so use that moisture to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the curry paste and brown sugar, tossing to coat the mushrooms and cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the chicken broth and coconut milk and whisk to combine.

Season it up:

Slide the chicken meatballs back into the soup and simmer for 10-15 minutes, just so the flavors can really meld and to ensure the chicken meatballs are fully cooked through. The internal temperature should reach 165 degrees. Add the tablespoon fish sauce and juice of an entire lime. Add the kale and stir until wilted.

Prepare your noodles:

During the last few minutes of simmer time make your noodles. Cook or soak noodles per the package instructions. I use Pad Thai rice noodles and the best way I’ve found to cook them is to boil water in my electric tea kettle and pour the boiling water over the noodles, letting them soak for about 10 minutes until softened. Take care not to soak TOO long or they will fall apart.

overhead view of a bowl of Thai chicken meatball soup with fresh herbs and jalapeno

Assemble baybay!

Add a portion of noodles to a bowl, ladle on the spicy broth, plenty of chicken meatballs and garnish to your heart’s content. I love fresh basil, fresh cilantro, green onions, sliced jalapeño and crispy fried onions.

DEVOUR.

Variation ideas:

I am, of course, partial to the recipe exactly as written but here are some ideas to make some adjustments based on what you have on hand!

  • Ground turkey or ground pork instead of ground chicken for the meatballs
  • Fluffy jasmine rice, brown rice, wild rice, coconut rice or egg noodles instead of rice noodles for the base
  • Fresh baby spinach or bok choy instead of kale
  • Shredded chicken breast, shrimp or tofu instead of a meatball vibe
Thai-inspired chicken meatball soup in a bowl with a lime wedge, basil leaves, fried onions, jalapeno and chopsticks

FAQs

Can I make this vegan?

To make this vegan replace the chicken meatballs with cubed tofu. (add the garlic and ginger when you sauté the shiitake mushrooms instead) Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and a vegan fish sauce substitute instead of fish sauce.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

If you use 100% rice noodles this recipe is gluten-free as written.

Can I use premade meatballs?

It will affect the overall flavor of the dish but yes, storbought meatballs will work just fine. Costco carries lemongrass chicken meatballs that would be an amazing shortcut here!

Can I use reduced-fat coconut milk?

Yes, you can. But the resulting soup will be thinner and less creamy and rich.

Can I use green curry paste instead of red?

This will alter the flavor a bit, but yes, it will still be delicious with green curry paste.

Is this recipe spicy?

The spiciness of this soup really depends on your curry paste. That’s where most/all of the heat will come from. You may want to give your curry paste a taste beforehand to gauge how conservative or liberal you want to be. I used a Kroger store brand of curry paste and as written I give this soup 2.5/5 stars on spice.

If you loved this Thai meatball soup you will probably also love:

Watch how to make:

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noodles spiraled on chopsticks in a bowl of thai-inspired chicken meatball soup

Thai-inspired Chicken Meatball Soup with noodles

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.9 from 8 reviews
  • Author: Erica
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Creamy, spicy and comforting this will be your new, reimagined version of chicken noodle soup!


Ingredients

Units Scale

Meatballs

  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1-inch knob ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Soup

  • 2 tablespoon avocado oil, divided
  • 8oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 bunch kale, thinly sliced
  • 6oz rice noodles
  • To garnish: fresh basil, green onions, cilantro, fried onions, sliced jalapeño, lime wedges

Instructions

In a large bowl, add the meatball ingredients: ground chicken, garlic, ginger, green onions, lemongrass paste, salt and pepper. Use your hands (I like to wear gloves) to thoroughly combine the mixture. Roll into 1-inch meatballs. You should have about 18-22 meatballs. Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill.

In a large pot or Dutch oven (affiliate link) add a a tablespoon of avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs to the hot oil in an even layer, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown all over, about 8 minutes total. You may need to work in batches. Remove meatballs to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon avocado oil and sauté the shiitake mushrooms for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and softened. The mushrooms will release quite a bit of moisture so use that moisture to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the curry paste and brown sugar, tossing to coat the mushrooms and cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the chicken broth and coconut milk and whisk to combine.

Slide the chicken meatballs back into the soup and simmer for 10-15 minutes, just so the flavors can really meld and to ensure the chicken meatballs are fully cooked through. Add the fish sauce and juice of an entire lime. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed- fish sauce for saltiness, lime for acidity, brown sugar for sweetness, curry paste or sriracha for spice. Add the kale and stir until wilted.

During the last few minutes of simmer time make your noodles. Cook or soak noodles per the package instructions. I use Pad Thai rice noodles (affiliate link) and the best way I’ve found to cook them is to boil water in my electric tea kettle (affiliate link) and pour the boiling water over the noodles, letting them soak for about 10 minutes until softened. Take care not to soak TOO long or they will fall apart.

Add a portion of noodles to a bowl, ladle on the spicy broth, plenty of chicken meatballs and garnish to your heart’s content. I love fresh basil, cilantro, green onions, sliced jalapeño and crispy fried onions.


Notes

Refer to blog post above for variation ideas, answers to frequently asked questions, where to find certain ingredients and ideas for ingredient substitutions.

Nutrition information is an estimate and may vary slightly.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
  • Calories: 641
  • Sugar: 8.2 g
  • Sodium: 1711.9 mg
  • Fat: 37.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 53.2 g
  • Protein: 24.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 100.1 mg

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